BEAVERS NOTES: Utah presents mixed bag to OSU, and both teams have key injuries
CORVALLIS - Notes from Tuesday's media day at Valley Football Center ...
• Oregon State has dealt with extensive injury problems this season, but will get little sympathy from the opposition when the Beavers visit Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday in Salt Lake City to face Utah.
The Utes (3-4 overall, 0-4 in Pac-12 play) have lost five key players to season-ending injuries, including star quarterback Jordan Wynn, knocked out with shoulder surgery following a 31-14 loss to Washington on Oct. 1.
Also lost for the year are linebacker Boo Andersen, punt returner Charles Henderson, fullback/tight end Dallin Rogers and safety Keith McGill.
Utah expects to regain the services of leading receiver DeVonte Christopher, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Questionable for Saturday's 4 p.m. contest is starting free safety Eric Rowe (knee).
Oregon State (2-5, 2-2) has lost defensive tackle Castro Masaniai and cornerback Brandon Hardin for the year due to injuries.
The injury situation for Saturday: linebacker Cameron Collins (groin), tight end Joe Halahuni (ankle), center Grant Johnson (ankle) and tailback Jovan Stevenson (knee) are expected to be available. Tailback Jordan Jenkins (concussion) is probable, and middle linebacker Feti Unga (calf) is questionable.
• In Corvallis, there is bitter memory of the end to the 2008 OSU-Utah game, won by the Utes 31-28 on a 37-yard field goal by Louie Sakoda as time expired.
Oregon State led 28-20 with two minutes to play, but Utah drove for a touchdown to close the margin to 28-26.
The Utes failed on a pass on a two-point conversion, but a late flag was thrown for pass interference on OSU safety Greg Laybourn - though the pass was high and appeared to be uncatchable. On a second conversion attempt from the 1-yard line, Ute QB Brian Johnson scored to tie the game at 28-28.
Oregon State went three-and-out and punted, and the Utes moved close enough for Sakoda's game-winning kick.
'It was quite a game with a disappointing ending,' OSU coach Mike Riley said.
The victory improved the Utes' record to 5-0. They went on to a 12-0 mark, a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 2 final national ranking.
• Utah's maiden voyage in the Pac-12 has not been smooth. The Utes, who have won non-conference games with Montana State (27-10), Brigham Young (54-10) and Pittsburgh (26-14), are 0-4 against league teams, including losses at home to Washington (31-14) and Arizona State (35-14).
Utah's rout of BYU at Provo gives pause to OSU coaches, since the Cougars beat the Beavers 38-28 at Reser Stadium. Wynn was still playing then for the Utes, though. BYU had seven turnovers in that game, including six fumbles, and managed only 11 net yards rushing.
The Utes gave Southern Cal all it could handle in a 23-14 loss. Trailing 17-14 with 11 seconds left, Utah's Coleman Petersen lined up for a 41-yard field-goal attempt. It was blocked and returned by the Trojans for a touchdown on the game's final play.
Utah's worst performance was in its last outing, a 34-10 loss at California last Saturday in which the Bears led 34-0 early in the fourth quarter. The Utes totaled 11 first downs, 13 yards rushing and 178 yards total offense.
• Utah's defense is one of the Pac-12's best, ranking third in scoring defense (22.4), total defense (334.6) and rush defense (99.4) and fourth in pass defense (235.1).
'It's one of the most physical defenses we'll have seen,' Riley said.
Among the top defenders are senior linebacker Chaz Walker, second in the Pac-12 in tackles (58), and sophomore safety Brian Blechen, 10th in the league in tackles (49). The front four is huge and effective, with brothers Joe Kruger (6-7, 270 sophomore end) and Dave Kruger (6-5, 285 junior tackle), 6-3, 325-pound junior tackle Star Lotulelei and 6-3, 270-pound senior end Derrick Shelby.
'Shelby makes a ton of plays,' Riley said. '(Lotulelei) is very agile for 325 pounds. (Blechen) is a really good player, a kind of hybrid safety/linebacker.'
• The Krugers' father, Paul, played for Oregon State, lettering in 1986 and '87. Their older brother, Paul Jr., was a 2008 first-team All-Mountain West Conference D-lineman now playing for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.
'We tried to recruit both (Joe and Dave), but we never got a sniff,' Riley said.
• It's the opposite situation for Utah on the other side of the ball. The Utes are last in the Pac-12 in passing offense (211.1), total offense (309.0), pass efficiency, first downs (17.1 per game), third-down conversions (34.0 percent) and red-zone offense (69.6 percent, with four touchdowns and six field goals in 16 visits). They are 11th in scoring offense (22.7).
JC transfers are starting at quarterback and tailback.
Jon Hayes, a 6-0, 210-pound junior from Butte (Calif.) College, has taken over for Wynn at QB, completing 53 of 92 passes for 630 yards and three TDs, with seven interceptions in four games.
John White, a 5-8, 185-pound junior from Los Angeles Harbor, ranks second in the Pac-12 with 710 yards (a 5.0 average) and seven TDs. White has had big games against BYU (22 carries, 174 yards, 3 TDs) and Pitt (36 carries, 171 yards), but was stuffed by USC (20 for 56), Washington (14 for 35) and Cal (15 for 39).
• Oregon State has a pair of Pac-12 players of the week - and they are both redshirt freshmen.
Quarterback Sean Mannion and defensive end Scott Critchton were honored for their roles in last Saturday's 44-21 romp past Washington State.
Mannion completed 26 of 34 passes for 376 yards and four TDs. The 6-5, 225-pound Pleasanton, Calif., native, who has completed 182 of 274 passes (66.4 percent) for 1,964 yards and nine TDs with 10 interceptions, has moved up to fourth in the Pac-12 in passing yardage behind Arizona's Nick Foles, SC's Matt Barkley and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler and ahead of Stanford's Andrew Luck. Mannion is second in completions behind Foles.
Crichton terrorized the Cougars with seven tackles, a sack, two tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles. The redshirt freshman end has four forced fumbles this season, matching the OSU record. He is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 10 tackles-for-loss.
• Oregon State leads the nation in penalty yardage at 79.9 per game.
'Some of those are bad penalties - when we jump offsides, illegal procedure, that sort of thing,' Riley said. 'We have to do better at that stuff. The other ones, I look at penalty by penalty and evaluate them.
'Some are inadvertent. The ones we can control, there's no excuse for that.'
• Beaver Nation will finally get a look at Reggie Dunn, the scatback from Compton, Calif., who twice signed letters of intent with Oregon State but never qualified academically. Now at Utah, the 5-10, 170-pound junior has rushed seven times for 87 yards and caught 10 passes for 138 yards and ranks fifth in the conference in kickoff returns with a 25.4-yard average.
• From 2008-10, the Utes were 33-6, including 17-1 at home. Why such a homefield advantage - the high altitude, perhaps?
'The only thing I thought about it was Utah,' Riley said. 'Their team was good.'
NOTES: Utah starts only six seniors, two on offense. ... OSU's Markus Wheaton is among the Pac-12 leaders in receptions (third, 51) and receiving yards (fourth, 647). ... The teams enter Saturday's game virtually even in rushing offense (112.7 Utah, 112.3 OSU). ... Utah has sold out nine straight home games; tickets remained Tuesday for Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, capacity 45,017. ... In his seventh year as Utah's head coach, Kyle Whittingham is 60-24, including 5-1 in bowl games. His only loss was in last year's Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State. ... OSU has a 9-5-1 advantage in the series with Utah that began in 1931. ... OSU senior James Rodgers' next reception will be the 200th of his career. He needs 15 to pass James Newson and move into second on the school list behind Mike Hass (220).